MELBOURNE — Despite putting up a strong fight, Eau Gallie was not able to fend off Okeechobee in a close 52-45 loss at home Friday night.
Eau Gallie and Okeechobee traded the lead throughout the first half until the Brahmans pulled away by two touchdowns with a run into the end zone by Jajuan Cherry.
A big 41-yard reception by Darin Garland set up the Commodores less than 10 yards from the end zone in the first quarter. Three plays later, Tyvone Brooks ran in the ball three yards for Eau Gallie’s first touchdown.
Cordell Dzara made a huge 85-yard reception in the second quarter, blowing through undefended territory to put Eau Gallie in a short-lived lead.
Relying on running backs Cherry and Lamar Williams, and quarterback Bubba Fludd, Okeechobee was able to use what coach Chris Branham called a “three-headed monster attack” where fake handoffs enabled them to sneak the ball down the field for big gains.
Williams had 24 carries for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Cherry scored twice while rushing nine times for 118 yards, while also hauling in a 25-yard reception for a score as well.
“I had a lot on my mind tonight because I lost two close friends last weekend,” Williams said. “So I had to come out and give it my best and play for them.”
Two former Okeechobee athletes — Tyrell Taylor and Trey Howard — passed away tragically in the week before the game.
For Eau Gallie, Brooks ran 10 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Matt Wilson passed 14 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
“I just play every play like nothing happened on the last play,” Wilson said. “When it’s tough, we just have to fight it out and stay tough.”
Eau Gallie did fight it out, outscoring Okeechobee 24-21 in the fourth quarter. The Commodores attempted to regain control of the game by making big passes to keep the clock in check. On top of that, a successfully recovered onside kick by Eau Gallie helped them score twice in a row to make up some of the deficit. With less than a minute left in the game after their final touchdown, they attempted another onside kick that fell into Okeechobee hands. The clock ran out with Eau Gallie trailing by only seven points.
“We showed a lot of maturity tonight. We showed a lot of growth even in our loss,” Eau Gallie coach Tim Powers said. “I’m proud of our effort. I’m proud of the way we kept fighting.”
After this loss, Eau Gallie is eliminated from a chance at district playoffs. Okeechobee will host Jensen Beach as they move forward in district play.